General Sergei Surovikin of Russia, a former ally of President Wagner who has not been seen in public since a short-lived rebellion last month, is “resting”, one of the country’s top lawmakers said on Wednesday when pressed by a reporter.
“He is unavailable now,” the lawmaker, Andrei Kartapolov, the head of the defense committee of the Russian Duma, added in a video posted on the Telegram messaging app before rushing away from the reporter.
General Surovikin, the head of the Russian Aerospace Forces, was considered to be an ally of Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary company, whose forces mounted the brief uprising in June aimed at overthrowing Russia’s military leadership, before withdrawing in. agreement with the Kremlin.
In the days since, intense speculation has surrounded General Surovikin, who deftly pulled Russian troops out of Kherson amid Ukraine’s counter-offensive last year and was often dubbed “General Armageddon” for his ruthless tactics.
The New York Times reported that US officials believe General Surovikin had prior knowledge of the uprising but do not know if he participated. In the hours after the uprising began, the Russian authorities quickly released a video of the general calling on the Wagner fighters to stand down. He has not been seen in public since then.
The comments came days after Russian authorities on Monday released the first footage of the country’s top military officer, General Valery V. Gerasimov, since the uprising.
In the video, General Gerasimov received a report from the Russian Aerospace Forces, which is directed by General Surovikin. But the person who gave the update in the footage was General Surovikin’s deputy, General Colonel Viktor Afzalov.
The location of General Surovkin is just one of the many mysteries that arose after the rebellion. Despite an agreement announced by the Kremlin, according to which Mr. Prigozhin would leave Russia for Belarus and avoid prosecution, the mercenary tycoon appears to remain in Russia.
The Kremlin disclosed earlier this week that Mr. Prigozhin and his top commanders had met with President Vladimir V. Putin five days after the uprising, raising many questions about what deal was made with the former rebels.
According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov, during the meeting the fighters pledged their loyalty to Mr. Putin, who in turn discussed “additional employment options and additional combat uses” for the Wagner fighters. Mr. Peskov did not give further details about what was agreed.
General Surovikin led Russian troops in Syria while Mr. Prigozhin’s Wagner group fought there. When Moscow appointed General Surovikin to lead Russian forces in Ukraine last year, Mr Prigozhin praised him as the best commander in the Russian army.
But in January, Mr. Putin handed over command of Ukrainian operations to General Gerasimov, handing the reins to someone, Mr. Prigozhin, regularly pilloried as an incompetent paper pusher.
Mr. Prigozhin said his rebellion was aimed at removing General Gerasimov and his counterpart, Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu. Mr Shoigu has made numerous public appearances in the days since the uprising, in what has been interpreted as a sign of Mr Putin’s support.
The questions about General Surovikin’s whereabouts came as another incident roiled the ranks of the Russian military.
A former Russian submarine commander, Stanislav Rytsky, who served as the deputy director of the Krasnodar mobilization office, was found shot to death in the southern Russian city earlier this week.
On Tuesday, the day after the body was found, Ukrainian military intelligence said on its official Telegram account that Rzhitsky commanded a submarine that was involved in missile attacks against Ukraine.